Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Kettle to Ourselves

No Buggers (part3)
Here are the links to the first two Parts, found on my blog, to this adventure.

The Kettle to Ourselves

I awoke early and was already tying flies before Jeff rolled out of the back of his truck. I wanted to tie up some more brown spinners and a few more March Browns and such for the last day on the Kettle. Jeff started making coffee and poured himself a bowl of cereal. I was sippin on my hot tea and had feather clipping scattered around my temporary fly tying station in our little parking area. After breakfast Jeff started to clean up camp but didn’t mind if I continued to tie until it was time to bring down the tarp. After breaking camp, I handed Jeff a few of the fresh flies I tied and we headed for the FFO project area, on the Kettle, a ways up from the bridge.

 We pulled into the parking area and found we were the first there. We later found we wouldn’t have any company during our morning fishing either, We had the creek to ourselves!
 We both decided to work our way down stream. I started pretty much where we entered the creek as Jeff disappeared down the path. I found a few fish sipping on something atop the water I couldn’t get an eye on. I tried my small midge patterns and a few small caddis but nothing was interested in them in the gin clear water. After about a half hour of getting casting exercise I decided to walk downstream to the first deep hole.
 Foam and bubbles floated upon the rippling water of the deep pool caused by the rushing narrower shallow riffles above. I knew the hole was deep and had erratic cross currents below the surface. I watched the surface area for any rises and found a fish feeding near the far bank down below a rooted snag in the milder current flow. I kept the tan caddis on in hopes of coaxing him to take. It took a couple of casts and mends to get the fly to drift, drag free, in his holding area. On my third perfect drift he rose to the fly. I was quick enough to get enough tension on the long length of line to set the hook. The fish dove deep heading towards the back of the pool. My 5wt Kettle Creek rod bowed towards the fighting fish. I let some line slip through my fingers until I felt I had a good grasp of the size and fight of the trout. With a fine struggle on my 6x tippet I brought an 11” brown to me feet.
 After releasing him I noticed another fish rising in the same area. My first cast to the far bank came up short and I wasn’t pleased with the distance from the bank where my fly fell. I lifted the rod and in turn the fly line rose from the water skirting the caddis across the rough water before lift off. To my surprise a surface splash appeared, behind my moving fly, from a fish attempting to take my imitation. Of course he missed it as I was already into my lifting back cast with a swift pull. I attempted to coax him to the surface again but he was aware something was wrong.
 I then tied on a couple of different dries and cast them out into the riffling water but no fish were interested. Soon I got a glimpse of a brown trout suspended just below the surface sipping on midges of some sort below the bubbling foam. I looked down into the water but couldn’t see any form of fly or bug drifting by. I tried every small fly I had in my fly box from size #20 to #14 mayflies and caddis. He would glance at a few, which brought a little hope, but never got the nerve to try one out.

 Meanwhile Jeff was having a field day below the first rocky falls down creek. I didn’t even notice he was down there until he called to me with his fly rod bent. When I acknowledged his calling, by looking towards him, he yelled back to the effect he was having a field day catching trout below the falls.
“What are you using?” I called back
“Those small brown spinners”, “They’re hammering them” he added
“Those ones with the double split moose main tails?” I asked.
“Ya, the ones you gave me” he answered.
“I guess the fish can’t count after all” I called back
He got a grin on his face before he turned and stooped down to take care of the fish attached to his line.

(You see the day before I tied up some small brown spinners to his shade of color he suggested. I used two moose hairs on each side of a split tail. He told me that the spinners he sees and ties only had one tail on each side. I assured him, when I tied them, that fish can’t count!)

 I turned back to my fishing the deep pool. After more frustration, of not being able to catch the darn teasing surface sipping brown, I started to make my way downstream. Under an overhanging leafy tree I coaxed a rainbow to take a small Adam’s parachute. He took it quick and aggressively and his fight was just as aggressive. He must have churned up enough commotion that no other trout wanted my offering in the area.
 Just above the first rocky falls I seen a few sipping rises. Again I looked into the water and found nothing floating. I drifted the parachute Adam directly down stream to one. The fish swirled at it and I lifted the rod to set the hook. Nothing, not even an inkling of resistance was felt. About three fish continued to sip no-see-ums instead of any of my midges I tried. I finally fished my way downstream to where I caught up with Jeff down around the bend. He looked frustrated and told me fish have been rising in the wide run but he couldn’t hook up. I tried, with long casts, across the run to the rising fish on the other side. I had one quick surface splash at my fly but didn’t connect with it. It got pretty frustrating watching fish after fish sporadically surfacing to something atop the slower pool of water, on the other side of the faster run, but not to ours. I finally went upstream and crossed the creek to get to the other side where the fish were. Slowly I waded, ankle deep, and stood upstream from the deep slow pool. I again tried every small midge and spinner I had with no effect. Looking into the water I now saw what they were sipping on. Tiny olive spinners were on the surface and slowly drifting down stream. They were all over the place with a few tiny olives still fanning their wings before being taken under by one of those hungry trout. I had neither a tiny olive spinner nor a #28 BWO in my fly box.
 The heat started to rise and the black flies began to find us. We started to head back to the vehicles for lunch. Just below, where we parked the vehicles, I stopped and fished the slow stretch that I fished in the morn. There wasn’t any fish rising but I tried a couple of offerings any how. For some unknown reason I tied on a #10 March Brown and tossed it upstream in the choppy water running towards me. The first drift towards me a fish rose and attacked that #10 like a shark attack. I had too much slack in the line and missed the take.
 I continued tossing out the #10 upon the fast current and let it drift my way. Sporadically a fish would attack it bobbing on the choppy water. It was tough getting a good hook set, being downstream, but I finally hooked into one. The big rainbow bucked like a rodeo bull beneath and atop the riffling run. I knew he wouldn’t swim upstream into the shallow pebble run so I kept my rod horizontal to the water. In this way if he turned towards me I was ready to lift the rod quickly to keep tension on my line. I got him to my feet but he was still aggressive enough that the hook came out before I was able to hold him in my hand. Evidently the fish had moved into the riffling run to feed or to just get out of the glowing sun. I drifted the #10 down a few more times but didn’t get any responses and besides that the black flies had found me again and were rioting around me.
 I gave it up and walked up the bank to the vehicles. Jeff was already sitting in a lawn chair starting to enjoy a sandwich, beer and chips. I took out my cooler and made myself a sandwich.

“How about hitting Young Womans Creek after lunch and before we head home? I asked
“Suits me fine” he replied after washing down a bite of sandwich with a beer.
 We sat in the shade enjoying lunch and the peace and quiet. Just before leaving I put away the 5wt. Kettle Creek rod and assembled my 3wt Hardy rod for the evening rise at Young Womans Creek.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ice Follies!

Ice Follies!

 The lack of fishing finally got to me and I was looking for something to do to ease my urge. Snow was piled up outside but it looked like the sun might penetrate through the cold white clouds. Being that the steelhead cricks and lake were frozen I had been stuck in the house. I was so depressed I actually thought about ice fishing, which I‘ve never done before. I didn’t have an auger but I figured I should be able to find some unused previous cut out holes that I can chop open with my axe. What I heard is all I’ll need are any small fly or jig tipped with a maggot that should catch fish. I thought hard on this and then bundled up to brave the cold.
 I gathered up my latex caddis and small egg patterns and put them in my winter coat. I grabbed two short rods, my hatchet and put on my Pac-boots. After stopping to buy hand warmers and maggots I headed to the local lake to try and catch some perch or whatever else was out there.

 I pulled into the parking lot, among the other vehicles, and glanced out over the frozen water. A few shanties were scattered about but I noticed there were a few loners or couples braving the cold outdoors upon the ice. I put on my wool tossel cap and gloves, flipped my coat collar up, grabbed my bucket of gear and headed out onto the ice.
 I noticed one guy, in a brown camo coat, was doing well with a dozen or so perch on the ice. A few others were sitting on plastic buckets or beach chairs huddled around their holes. I walked passed the guy with all the perch and nodded a greeting. I didn’t need to walk very far out when I came across a few neglected holes in the ice. There was just a thin layer of surface ice in two of the holes about 15 feet apart. I chipped out the ice and put a small orange soccer cone next to each of the holes to mark my claim. About another 30 feet I found another hole. The surface ice looked a little thicker and it took a little longer to chip through it. I was going to give up but I didn’t want to look like a quitter. Chipping the ice brought a warm sweat under my 5 layers of clothes, enough that I unzipped my heavy winter coat and unbuttoned my insulated flannel shirt. I felt sweat on my brow and even took my cap off until I hit water. I put my last orange cone on the pile of snow and ice and was ready to get this ice fishing thing started.
 I walked back about 12 yards from the holes putting them, in a semi-circle, the same distance from me. I assembled my 8’ Cortland fly rod and strung it up. I knotted the #14 latex caddis, which wasn’t easy with cold fingers, to the tippet and stuck a maggot behind the barb of the hook. I pulled out line and false casted enough line above to finally get a good smooth stroke of movement in my stiff casting arm. My first drop was a foot shy of the watery hole. I tried a roll cast but found that wasn’t going to work well. With a heave back and then forward I put the maggot and latex caddis dead center of the hole. I wasn’t sure how deep it was going to drop but I was satisfied with the cast that I felt I’d wait a little before another attempt.

So there I stood, on the ice with my 8’ fly rod gripped in my gloved hands watching the fly line and ice hole some 12 yards away. I glanced around and a couple of dudes looked at me like I was goofy or something. “Hey“, I thought to myself, I get looks like that often when I’m in the middle of a bunch of bait casters. I imagine with my long hair, gruffy beard, I could see why I get funny looks.

 After a few minutes I wondered if I should add some weight and maybe an indicator to detect the slightest strikes. After a snort of Yukon Jack, from my flask, I took in line to re-rig. I added a strip of lead and another maggot to the hook bend. I attached an indicator about 15 inches from the hook. I wasn’t sure how deep the water was but I noticed the guy with all the fish was about the same depth with his tip-ups.
 I missed the hole with my next two casts but my caddis landed just beyond the hole on my third. I slowly took in line until the lead weight fell into the water. This forced the caddis to follow into the hole and then followed by the indicator. Again I stood and waited.
 This got to be pretty darn boring. I than realized why ice fishermen bring two rods. I made a stick sculpture out of the loose snow and leaned my Cortland rod in the crook. I assembled my short Powel fly rod and strung it up. I knotted on an egg pattern complete with another maggot and indicator. I overhand cast to the third hole and on the second cast I got the egg into the water. I took another snort of Yukon, for my accomplishment, and lit up a stogie. I then tipped over my bucket and sat down relaxing. I was concentrating, watching my indicators, when I practically fell off my bucket when someone surprised me from behind.

“You know what yer doin?” some bundled up, only eyes and mouth showing through a ski masked, gentleman asked me.
“Well sure” I answered “I’ve been fly fishing for years!”
He looked at me puzzled.
“You ain’t gonna catch anything that way” he assured me.
"Whatever” I said and turned my attention to my fishing.
'Non-fly fishermen' I thought, 'they think they know everything!'
I took another snort and was more determined to catch a fish.

 I brought in line and added a dropper about 12 inches below my latex caddis. I cast out towards the hole and the caddis fell short about a foot from the hole. I propped the rod shaft up again and walked over and dropped the tandem rig in the water. I set the indicator on a little snow mound aside the hole. I walked back to the bucket and wondered why I ever came out here for anyway. I’m a catch-n-release guy. Just don’t seem to be much fun sitting on a bucket in cold, cold weather on ice and watching two motionless fly rods.
 The guy in the camo stood up and reeled another perch in. He unhooked it and laid it onto his pile of fish. It flipped about a bit until it slid off the pile onto the freezing ice. He sat the rod down, took his last swallow of his quart of beer and than looked around. I knew just what he was wanting to do. About 40 yards off was the edge of the lake where the tall bare trees stood within the snow fall. He set the empty bottle down and proceeded in that direction.
 I looked behind me and noticed no one was paying any attention to me. I took in line until the indicator slid off the snow mound. I stood up and continued to take in line until the tandem rig laid upon the ice with no line slack. I heaved back the rod and my indicator and tandem rig followed. With a slight turn I changed direction of the rod tip and shot the line towards the mound of perch the camo guy had just left. My indicator landed in between the pile. I pulled the line towards me and watched as my tandem rig slid across the ice and entered into the pile of fish. I quickly side-armed the rod to my right and bingo! Not just one but two fish slid out of the pile. I quickly brought them in, unhooked them and slid them under my bucket. The camo guy just got to the bank and was proceeding up through the snow towards the first big tree to relieve himself. I did my best to get line out, false cast and laid the tandem rig again in the pile of fish. Quickly I ripped the rod tip back and a fresh perch came flipping out of the pile. That darn fish flipped and flopped all the way back to me as I reeled it in. I unhooked the hook from its tail and slid it under the bucket. I looked up and the camo guy was starting to walk out of the woods towards the lake. I made my next cast towards my hole and sat on my bucket as if nothing happened.
 When he got back to his claim I picked up my flask, saluted to him, and took a snort. He shook his head and reached down into a backpack he had laying on the ice. He took from it another quart of beer, twisted it open, and saluted back. After I watched him set up his tip-ups and sit back down, I sat there contemplating. His back was towards me and a few of his fish, lying on the ice, were out of his vision. I couldn’t resist!
 I brought in my one line and knotted on a #8 white woolly bugger. Just above the hook I clamped on a heavy split shot. I looked around and no one was paying me no mind. I single hauled a back cast and whipped the bugger towards the unguarded fish. The bugger fell near them with a thud. I expected the camo guy to turn to see what the noise was but just than I seen his ice rod tip pop up. He stood at that very moment to retrieve his hooked fish. I hurriedly back-cast for fear of getting caught. A perch came whirling threw the air following my leader and fly line towards me. I leaned to my right just in time to let the fish pass by my ear. I turned toward it and watched it slide across the ice finally coming to a stop. I slid the fish towards me and slid it under the bucket.

After that I felt I had enough. I gathered up all my gear and put my 4 fish in the bucket. I took one last snort of Yukon and walked over to the camo guy. Hearing me, he turned and looked up at me.
“Catch anything with that set up?” he jokingly chuckled.
“Sure” I said.
He got a puzzled look on his face.
“Here” I said dumping the four fish into his pile of fish.
“I don’t keep’em,” “ catch and release guy” I murmured to him.
He just stared in disbelief.
“White Wooly Buggers and Latex Caddis” I said as I turned and walked away.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Last Trout of 2010?

Last Trout of 2010?

 After scouting out the area and checking my deer stand, the day before deer season opened, I had time to do a little trout fishing. I was in the vicinity of a small Fly Fishing Only creek I knew well but don’t get out that way much to fish it. It’s just a small narrow creek mostly and if there are other vehicles in the area I consider it crowded and look elsewhere.

 I drove down the semi-secluded lane and found myself alone in the parking area. I felt like a young teenager with a pocket full of tokens in a vacant mall arcade. I had the creek to myself and the time spent fishing would only be limited by the darkness to come.
 I put together my 7’ 3wt. Hardy Demon rod, being I was planning on using streamer type flies. I attached my Quest reel with 15 yards of DT3F line. I had cut the line in half being that I would not be casting very far in small streams and put the other half of line back in its original box for future use. To the 7 ½’ of tapered leader I knotted on a short piece of fluorocarbon tippet and a small Quick-Snap so I can change streamers with ease in the coldness.

 At the creek I noticed it was flowing higher than normal this time of year which made it perfect. From the bridge I looked down into the cold clear water and already noticed skittish fish moving from my presence to take cover elsewhere. I walked downstream to the first long stretch of mild moving water. A small school of trout caught my movement and darted upstream. From the bank I graciously cast a triple threat out towards the far side, not wanting to draw attention to any quick arm movements. I let the streamer swing and slowly stripped it in keeping it from snagging the stony and now leafy bottom. Though the water was clear the overhanging shade trees kept my vision, through dark polarized lenses, limited. Nothing wanted my offering in the long stretch so I continued working my way down creek casting quite a distance in front of me.
 Fishing downstream I immediately noticed stream improvements made by the Oil Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The placement of logs and boulders, protruding from the banks, made for good cover and deep pockets of the once shallow sections of the creek. Behind one of the barriers I surprised an unwary trout as much as he surprised me at taking my phantom triple threat pattern. I had him hooked but he darted straight for me and, with my pinched barbed hook, I didn’t keep enough tension on the line and he got himself freed. After that I fished a long stretch of water without any takers or followers. I wasn’t sure if someone had fished the area earlier but I would have thought I would have caught at least one more throughout.
 I came to a good pool of water around a bend off the beaten trail. If there were hungry unsuspicious trout, this should be where to find them. A stream of water riffled from midstream flowing with good force towards the far bank and beyond. It leveled out in a large pool that eventually flowed over a wider, shallower, stony section below. I wasn’t sure how deep the pool was because of the shadows of the pines and hardwood tree cover. I kept a low profile, though, upstream from where I was planning on casting.
 My first roll cast was to the middle of the creek and I short mended the line upstream to give the triple threat time to sink some before traveling down. I continued working my streamer towards the far bank with each consecutive roll cast. I got a quick strike as the streamer swung just shy of the far bank in the headwater of the pool. I pinched my fly line and tipped up the rod for a quick hook set. The fish fought towards the tail end and after feeling him tire I forced him to my side of the creek with the bent 3 weight. At my hip boots I bent down, unhooked the streamer from the rainbow and watched him dart out of vision. I missed another on the next cast but just after that it was like the area went dead. I knew there had to be more trout in the water before me so I selected a different triple threat pattern. With a sparse black top layer, orange sides and a white belly I felt this pattern should produce since they didn’t want the lighter shade pattern I was using.

The first cast towards the far bank produced a violent strike but I was unprepared with the suddenness of it all. It took only three more casts and short strips to entice another trout and a good hook set. The rainbow shook the 3 weight with good action as I brought him to hand.

 I hooked into 2 or three more and missed some short strikes before moving on down creek for newer scenery.

 Down below the tunnel water rushed over the cement wall, churning and bubbling as it entered the widened pool. Dead center, of the creek, was where the main current of water combined to make a nice riffling effect, smoothing out the further it flowed. On each edge the water turned back towards the bank and wall in slow, almost dead current topside. I climbed down the rocky ledge and stood in ankle deep water that suddenly dropped within a few feet off shore. The sloping dirt bank behind me and a few extended drooping branches made it difficult to cast. Roll casting the triple threat with a short rod wasn’t very easy to get much distance out but I did my best. Time and again I tried to get the triple out into the rippling water but it fell short. I found that the undercurrent, in the calmer water before me, was tricky and forced my streamer back, upstream, towards the falls in a slow drift. I worked the pool, from the bank, but couldn’t buy a bite in the slower back eddy. Finally, and forcefully, I false cast parallel with the creek flow and arced my rod tip above me and then wrist it towards the middle. The triple threat followed, in the tight arc, and shot above the water into the riffling surface water. I thought the triple would sink sharply and swing downstream with the creek flow but it didn’t. Instead, after sinking some and drifting shortly downstream, it again turned beneath and followed the undercurrent towards the falls.
 Somehow I had to get the streamer deeper and beneath the faster run of water. I added a little weight about 12” or so above my streamer in hopes of not hampering its action in the water. I knew the sandy bottom was covered with boulders and snags and knew enough not to let the streamer, or lead weight, drag the creek bed. I thought about the cross-current beneath and pictured what I wanted to accomplish in my head.
 Casting out again, into the middle of the rough riffling water, I quickly threw a loop of fly line down stream. This gave time for the streamer to sink some as it drifted while the fly line was atop the calmer water. Once my fly line was pulled under some, I lifted the rod and moved my rod tip in front of me to take up as much slack a possible in the arced fly line as the triple threat changed direction below, now drifting upstream. It was if the triple got hung up for a second below when I noticed the arc in the fly line straighten from a tight leader. I yanked a good hook set to get the arced fly line to pull sharply and I felt the resistance of a tug on the other end. I knew big fish lurked in the deep pool so I played him carefully as the 3 weight flexed, dampening the quick sudden pulls, with each turn of the hooked fish below. Fishing with a pinched barb I knew I had to keep good tension and a flexed rod on the fish as he took on different depths. I managed to get the rainbow to my hand safely after a wily battle. It wasn’t a lunker but any frisky fish in double digit length are always quite exciting on the short 3 weight.

 With the same technique I managed two more trout, one being a brown, before calling it a day due to the fading natural light source.

 I now sit here, before my computer, typing this past outing. Glancing out the window, into the moonlit night, white flakes swirl and eventually accumulate on the few inches of snow, on the ground already. The wooden attic door flutters with each heavy gust of wind that blows against the old house. Occasionally I hear the Penn Dot truck roaring down the road like a heavy blacktop roller trucking at 30 MPH, with its blade scraping against dry pavement. I sip on a glass of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Coke mix as the aroma of deer jerky enters the room from the downstairs kitchen dehydrator. I heard that the creeks up in Erie are slushing up and the forecasters predict more snow and the freezing weather to continue. Looks like this past journey to a trout stream might be my last one for the year.

Might be time to start my Christmas shopping being I’ll have more time on my hands ‘till Christmas.